Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’: Our Third & Final Spoiler Discussion Including Your Observations in Listener Mail

On the March 29, 2019 episode of /Film Daily, /Film editor in chief Peter Sciretta is joined by /Film senior writer Ben Pearson and writers Hoai-Tran Bui and Chris Evangelista to have our final discussion about Jordan Peele’s Us spoilers, including getting to all your emails in the Mail Bag.

 

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Opening Banter: Reminder that Ben and Peter will be at CinemaCon in Las Vegas next week.

 

Listen to the previous discussions:

 

In Our Feature Presentation: We continue with our third and final installment of our Jordan Peele Us spoiler discussion.

 

  • HT gives her spoiler-filled interpretation of Us.
  • What Chris learned from Jordan Peele’s Empire interview.
    • "This movie is sort of a Dark Easter; it is a rising of a messiah after a metaphorical death of sorts."
    • Jordan Peele also says the official underworld/underground name is "the underpass"
    • he also stresses that the big explanation red gives about where the tethered came from might not actually be true, but just something she believes, which is something i said on the other show, so now i feel smart
  • Ben gives any new observations. Mentions Jen Yamato’s LA Times piece on Peele:
    • Peele says “Us” was inspired by the division and xenophobia he observed in post-election America and the notion that “the feeling that we all feel we are the good guy in our own story prevents us from facing our demons.”
    • “As far as the location where they come from, which is called the Underpass, I don’t tell you how large and how expansive it is — and in my mind it is quite large and expansive,” “I won’t give the borders, but there are … means down there.”
    • “The realization that our villains in this are a cult, are fanatics, and violent fanatics who are on a day to day level engaged in sort of unimaginably crazy-seeming behavior was about the realization that you could say the same about the other world — about us,” said Peele. “That we as Americans, as the United States, we are fanatics as well, and we are violent.”

 

In The Mailbag:

  • Brian T writes in “Something I noticed on a Reddit thread that I felt was a brilliant observation (but didn’t hear come up in the podcast) was the symbolism of the extended video for “Thriller.” The “Thriller” music video plot kicks off with the dead rising from underground and attacking MJ and his date. In the end, MJ and her date think they’re safe but we get a look right at the camera with a creepy smile from MJ revealing he’s secretly one of the monsters – much like what we get from Adelaide. You mentioned the single glove piece, but not the overall plot synchronization with the “Thriller” video, which I believe is an added layer of symbolism above and beyond just the MJ costume matching. The doppelgängers bore the scars from the actions of the people up above them. This refers to the way we pass down our problems from the upper-class to lower-classes, such as with climate changing mostly impacting poorer communities while richer people can afford to avoid the climate impacts of it – even though it’s something they are causing to get worse., the burns on the little boy doppelgänger, are because of him mirroring the “our world” version of him playing with that lighter toy on his finger. Because the doppelgängers have shoddy imitations of what the above-world has, he was playing with matches up close to his face. The lighter didn’t work but the matches did, sonhis face got burned and he couldn’t help it. Elisabeth Moss’s doppelgänger character had a similar effect where she had cuts on her face as a shoddy version of the plastic surgery that “above” Elisabeth Moss bragged about to Adelaide. Amazing, right? I wish I could remember how I found the thread so I could give them credit.”
  • Casey N from Utah writes in “Hi, I'm a HUGE fan of the podcast. I have a clarification about the theory of Jason actually being tethered. I don't necessarily subscribe to this theory, but there's an explanation that makes more sense than Jason and Pluto switching when he goes to the bathroom. The time of the switching happens the year before, the last time they were at the beach house. Gabe mentions offhandedly that Jason has been acting differently since his grandma died. The grandma's death doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it, but him acting strange could be an indication. If I remember correctly, Jason says the magic trick with the lighter was left at the house and he didn't have it for an entire year. I don't really have a good explanation about this, but it seems like something weird happened the year prior, and considering the layers upon layers of detail that Jordan Peele puts into this movie, it seems more than coincidence. There are some other things that we could retroactively fit into this theory. Learning to talk might've been an easier transition because Red knew how to talk and was more familiar with it. Jason was building sand tunnels, not a sand castle. Red also seemed to handle Jason with more respect than the other members of the family. She told Zora to run, but was content with Jason "playing" with Pluto. When she kidnaps him at the beach, you'd think she'd be a little more violent about it and not let him wander off into a locker. Some holes in the theory is why the heck Pluto runs around on all fours. This theory only allows Pluto one year to adjust to life in the tunnels, and that seems like a weird quirk to pick up in that time. Thanks for reading!”
  • Jacob C from Mississippi writes in “Hey guys! I’ve loved your Us spoiler discussions! I hope to hear more. I have tried to stay away from any reviews or opinions or interpretations just because I wanted to figure out what this movie meant for me before I talked about it with others. I’ve been obsessed with this movie ever since I saw it. Can’t get it out of my head. Yours and the slashfilmcast one were the first opinions I’ve heard. After having seen the movie twice now, I wanted to elaborate on something Chris said which was my first interpretation after seeing this movie. There are so many references to different 80’s horror movies, a lot of which you guys have mentioned. One of the references, or at least I read it as a reference at first, was the fact that there was a lot of subtle imagery here and there of Native Americans or Native American culture. I thought that might be a reference to The Shining which also has a lot of that. But when I started thinking about it more, I thought that this movie was maybe trying to be at least partly about the past of America. About the sins that this country has buried (the Native American on the front of the hall of mirrors at the beginning) and how it’s portrayed almost as past myth or fantasy (Merlin later on). This also would help explain the whole hands across America statement the tethered ones were trying to make. You can’t stand across America and try and make a statement about something without the past and the sins you’ve committed linked to you, holding hands along with you. I love all of your other interpretations as well. I want to go see it again to notice more things. I love how this movie becomes a completely different movie the second time you watch it. Things fall into place so easily the second time. The Adelaide  character is completely different. Reminds me of Arrival in that way. Also, I totally get your opinions on how Red’s opening storytime monologue seems a little clunky. But, it makes more sense a second time knowing that Red is kinda out for revenge and in that moment is reminding her double of the life that was stolen from her. Anyways, sorry this is long. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. Love the podcast!”
  • Jordan P writes in “Hi there!  My name is Jordan and I’m a movie reviewer. I started writing reviews about five years ago, and taking them to the next level by starting a Youtube channel. I’m a advid listener and subscriber to your podcast and very much liked your ‘Us’ episode. Here’s a few things I thought of when writing my review and listening to your take:  I went into the film thinking this might be a more psychological thriller because each character had somewhat of an ‘evil twin’’. And I really appreciated the psychological elements in ‘Get Out’. There’s still a part of me that thinks maybe these twins are just the terrible parts of us that we all feel we have; that other side that’s critical, or animalistic tendencies that we (most of us) keep locked away. I found it more of Adelaide fighting her her inner demons and true nature head on, instead of therapy, treatments or any other type of help we seek out for issues. I thought that could be another reason how The Teathered were never explained in terms of their existence; it’s all in our head in some dark neurological tunnel.   I think I would have appreciated a little clarity if this experiment was government sanctioned because I feel The Teathered and humans could come together to fight the common enemy. I felt that both Adelaide and Red blamed and hated the other, when neither should have. Taking a political point of view, it’s a representation of the Democratic and Republican parties resent the other, or immigrants and Americans hating each other when neither have the true power to enforce what they desire.   I appreciate that you encourage your listeners to reach out to you! Thank you for allowing me to discuss my points of view, and I hope to continue to send you more!”
  • Steve P writes in “I wondered if Peele named the family Wilson as a nod to Poe’s dark doppelgänger tale William Wilson?  It ends (spoiler) with William stabbing his dark twin and then seeing the bleeding victim in a mirror:  It says — “In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself.
  • Mahesh K writes in “Listened to the slashfilmdaily podcast on the movie Us (as well as reading the article on slash film, and every other damn article on the internet cause this movie broke my brain) and had some additional thoughts and reads on the film.   To me, a lot of this movie had to do with oppression, and potentially incarceration too.  To me that’s what the rabbits kind of represented to me. The rabbits start in cages (representing those incarcerated), and then even as they are freed, their lives basically consist of being food for the Tethered, or just aimlessly wandering around the tunnels of the Tethered, not really functioning in a society.  The red jumpsuits, while likely purposely selected by Red (or I guess, Adelaide?) and the Tethered for their demonstration, reminded me of prison jumpsuits. And finally, the uprising and demonstration itself. This I think is the biggest idea Jordan  Peele has for us and im not sure I’ve seen this fake mentioned. When the Tethered come up, what do they do? They kill (or attempt to kill) the everyday people they’re replacing, and then what? They do the hands across America stunt, which we know didn’t achieve much when done in the 80s. This I think is a message Peele is sending to the oppressed, or those who feel oppressed. If you feel like there are people just like you who are doing better than you (and there always is), don’t fixate on hurting them or bringing them down just to bring yourself up. Because then what? You’re still the same person, just in a different spot. Instead, he shows what can happen if someone who is Untethered is exposed to the environment that Red is after she swapped with Adelaide. He uses the swap/twist to present the argument for nature vs nurture (focusing on nurture) and how systemically oppressed people in the US can thrive if given basic opportunities. In other words, don’t turn on each other, privileged or not - work together to create equal opportunities and everyone can thrive. As for the more mundane details that don’t really matter - I'm going to pretend that there were white jumpsuits that the patients were given, and they were colored red with rabbit blood. As for the scissors, I’m going to pretend that there was a huge supply of golden barber scissors that fell underground somehow and that’s how they got them :) I’m still wrapping my head around this movie but these are the big ideas that I keep coming back to. Thanks guys for all the content!!!”
  • Martin I writes in “Hey Peter,   Since you said in your podcast to send stuff here figured I'd do that and you can read it on your own time. Like I said earlier couldn't really stop thinking about this and when I noticed there were 55 cages in the opening shot I had to think this through to get something rational out of it or I wouldn't be able to enjoy my weekend. This pretty much goes into fan theories and have not seen this anywhere so don't mind giving the scoop to you ;)  Assumption: Nothing in this movie was done by accident and everything is intentional.  I think all the multiple themes that have been discussed on your podcast and in the wild can all be grouped into morality of man and its attempt to build a society under human law/rules vs nature and that nature doesn't care what man thinks or what cute constructs we come up with to live in peace. In more simpler terms think of the golden rule (something created by man for the advancement of society) vs the golden ratio (found in nature and mathematics).  The opening credits in the beginning opens on the one rabbit and pans out to reveal multiple cages stacked on top of each other by the end of the roll. If you count the cages the dimensions are 5 x 11 (11:11 again) or 55 cages per block. If you're familiar with the Fibonacci Sequence 55 turns out to be the 10th step in that series. Fibonacci Sequence is where you take the first number of the series and add the previous number before it to get the next number in the series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55). You can then get an approximation of the golden ratio or Phi of 1.618 by taking the two previous terms and dividing them. Once out on DVD/BD, it would be worth seeing how many shots in the movie follow the golden ratio instead of the rule of thirds in their composition.  (rabbit pairs do not follow the Fibonacci Sequence when mating them together but golden ratio is used for growth approximations in biology and to model things in nature a lot in pedals on a flower, seashells, pine cones etc.) So we have 10 and 55. Well the 10 could represent the 10 commandments or a set of rules for man. So you have man on one side of the equation with rules to govern society vs nature represented on the other side with 55 rabbits. If you take religion out of it for a second (the four commandments about God) you can distill the 10 commandments down to the golden rule, do onto others as you would have them do onto you.  The themes throughout the movie can best be summed up as take care of your neighbor regardless of who they are or where they come from. For lot of folks this is tough when dealing with the divides we experience today in society. Most people don't really care much about the well being of strangers so lets make the situation more interesting and switch it up by asking would you feel the same way if it was another you? Would you have the humanity to give yourself what they need if they were hungry, cold, or sick and you could provide? All the themes your colleagues brought up then kind of branch from this idea of man trying to control society with rules and nature being like your rules are rubbish and hypothetical because its clearly not working you don't care about anyone but your selfish interests. The themes about poverty and the parallels to minorities and the disenfranchised all kind of stem from this and that modern America and the world have a lot of catching up and we gotta get real.  More information on Fibonacci and rabbits: http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/EMAT6680Fa11/Molnar/final3ram/final3ram.html Best to you and see ya when I see ya!”

 

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